UNLV Basketball 2012 13 NCAA Basketball Preview: UNLV

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

UNLV comes into this season as one of my favorite teams. Head coach Dave Rice stepped in his first year last season and led the Runnin’ Rebels to a 26-9 record and a birth to the NCAA Tournament. What he also did his first year, was my favorite part of all. He sped the game up. I love up-tempo teams that can get up and down the floor in less than five seconds. They’re the most fun to watch, and provide the most action in the smallest amount of time. Let’s get to the roster of this Elite Eight-bound team.

When you consider the fact that this team lost two of its best players over the offseason, and with them they couldn’t even make it to the field of 64 last year, how is it possible that I see this team making a lot of noise in March this season? Look at their recruiting class. The Rebels lose Chace Stanback, but gain Anthony Bennett, ESPN’s No. 7 recruit. The Rebels also lose a great scoring guard in Oscar Bellfield, but gain 6’5 scoring guard Katin Reinhardt. Whatever the Rebels lose from last season, they replace them this year with a version that should at least step in and do as good a job as their predecessor. Another great freshman addition in Savon Goodman will also play valuable minutes. Why did the power forward choose UNLV? Their up-tempo style of play. Vegas however didn’t only recruit great high school players this offseason. They added a former top 10 overall recruit in Khem Birch, coming from Pittsburgh via transfer.

What Birch brings is skill and size. He’ll be eligible in December, which is when this team will really start to show its true colors. The Rebels ultimately got Birch because he’s good friends with Bennett, who committed to UNLV this past offseason. Birch is a 6’9 power forward that showed his potential in a very small sample size at Pittsburgh last season. In his first career start, Birch put up 15 points with 10 rebounds and in his next game, totaled eight points, 11 rebounds and six blocked shots. Once Birch, Bennett and Mike Moser, UNLV’s best player who we haven’t even mentioned yet, get together in the frontcourt, look out America.

Moser is a 6’8 power forward who is a former transfer from UCLA. Just imagine that Bruins team with Moser this year if they had kept him. They would be the favorite this year, without a doubt. What Moser brings to the table for the Runnin’ Rebels is just about everything you can ask from a 6’8 player. He averaged a double-double last season, shot 78 percent from the foul line, and plays great defense. He’s not an enormous 6’8 forward that can’t get up and down the floor. This should be already assumed considering he plays for UNLV, but that’s beside the point. He led the Mountain West Conference in steals last year. He’s that quick for his size. Moser was a first team all-conference player last year, and supposedly has worked hard again in the offseason. Expect another all-conference honor for Moser, and if he can successfully teach Birch and Bennett the ropes down low, UNLV winning the national championship shouldn’t come as a shock to anybody.  Read more…